Mineral Bar Campground: Free Gold And A Beautiful Picnic Spot In California

Large 7.5 ounce California gold nugget


Interested in panning for gold? Here is a spot that is not too far from Sacramento and a reasonable drive from the San Francisco Bay area where you can pan for gold for free, and still find some nice nuggets. This is also a decent spot to hunt gold with a metal detector, especially one tuned to find small sized gold. Mineral Bar, where the Iowa Hill Bridge meets the North Fork of the American River is a great place to look and has a long history of productive gold mining. Take a look at the following information....... 8 ounces of large Alaska gold nuggets
Many new prospectors have a problem finding good places to prospect for gold. Many places are either located on private property or already held as a private mining claim. As a result, many people get together and form clubs.  The prospecting clubs and acquire their own claims for the use of the members.  However sometimes a new prospector would like to try his hand panning for gold at least the first few times without having to pay the money to join a prospecting club.  This webpage describes a beautiful little spot where one can dredge, sluice, metal detect, or pan for gold.  It is called Mineral Bar campground and is located where the Colfax - Iowa Hill Road crosses over the American River. In the terms of the old miners, a bar is a place where gold bearing gravel accumulates.  
The North fork of the American River has been mined for its gold since the days of the 49ers. At Mineral Bar, you can get a feel for that historic time, when hearty miners struggled to win a living by working the sands and gravels of the River. The signs are all around in the form of many large piles of rocks which were left behind by the miners who worked this area.  Some nice nuggets have been found here, and it is still possible to find some nice flakes without too much effort.  The picture at right with the buffalo nickel shows gold flakes taken from a days panning on the North Fork of the American River and Mineral Bar.  If you know how to pan for gold and know where to dig, you should be able to get a similar amount with a days worth of effort.  Much of this gold is flat and flaky and has been washed down from the hydraulic mines up above at places like Iowa Hill.

Gold likes to work its way down to the bedrock, and it's usually in the cracks and crevices of the bedrock that you will find the most gold.  If you would like to read more information on placer mining in general, and some instructions on how to pan for gold, be sure to check out my website on gold panning located here:

Instructions On Panning For Gold

Basic Placer Mining Methods


Prospecting for gold is allowed at the mineral bar campground area because it is part of the Auburn State recreation area. Even though it is government land, no mining claims can be staked here because of its status as a recreation area.  because it is such a beautiful spot, a number of people come out here both the camp tend to just relax and even swim in the river.  In the winter, the River is deep and cold, but in the summer a shallow and warm enough for swimming.  The kids in the family will especially enjoy the swimming opportunities.  The water feels mighty nice on a summer's day.

Both Colfax and Iowa Hill were important towns in the gold rush days.  If you come to stay and try your hand prospecting at Mineral Bar, you should set aside a little bit of time to visit both Colfax and Iowa Hill and see the historic sites there. The town of Iowa Hill is practically surrounded by large old hydraulic mines, we're miners washed down the entire hillside to capture the gold located there. It is easy to see the hydraulic mines on both sides of the road just before it enters Iowa Hill. On the north side of Colfax is the Bear River, and it also has gold in it, and campground available along that river as well. So if you find things full at Mineral Bar, you might also try to see if there is an opening at one of the campgrounds along the Bear River.

Getting to Mineral Bar is not too difficult - it is about 2 miles East of the little town of Colfax, northeast of Sacramento.   The map below shows what you need to know to get there. Take the Iowa Hill Road which diverges from the frontage road on the east side of I-80. It intersects the frontage road roughly a quarter mile south of the Chevron gas station. The road down is paved all the way, but it is a little steep in places and there are a couple real sharp turns. The road is not advisable for larger motor homes. Its a popular camp spot and usually nearly or completely full on weekends during the summer. Arriving early on Friday or on Monday are usually best if you want to camp. Even if the camp spots are full there is still plenty of day parking for non-campers. There are limited facilities: pit toilets only and no running water other than what is in the river (and that is not safe to drink). Even so, it has good gold and is less than an hour from the Sacramento area, a perfect place to get away from it all, a quiet spot well worth the time to stop and enjoy a visit to the area. The nearest supermarket in this area, which is also the best source for food and other goods, is located behind McDonald's in Colfax.


Want to know a little bit more about this crazy prospector guy? Well, here's a little bit more about me, and how I got into prospecting: Chris' Prospecting Story  

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Find out more by checking out all of our links below:
Learn The Basics of Placer Mining for Gold Locations to Prospect for Gold for Free
Build Your Own Gold Mining Equipment Miner's Reference Guide: How its Done
Chris' Adventures Prospecting for Gold, Silver, and more Investing In Gold and Precious Metals
Metal Detecting with the MXT Metal Detector Prospecting In Nevada Prospecting In California
Nevada Outback Library and Bookstore - Learn more! Prospecting In Arizona Prospecting In Alaska
Natural Gold Nugget Photos: Big Nuggets, Crystal Gold Recovering Gold From Black Sand Metal Detecting For Gold Nuggets
The Rockhound's Corner for Gem Hunting Panning for Gold Nuggets Advice on Selling Your Gold
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